Born in the English Midlands city of Leicester just after World War II to parents who taught French, Julian Patrick Barnes studied French at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated with honors in 1968 with a degree in modern languages. After he left Oxford, his abiding interest in words and language led him to a position as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement. In 1972 Barnes became a freelance writer, preferring that parlous profession to the law. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, he wrote reviews for The Times Literary Supplement and was contributing editor to the New Review, assistant literary editor of the New Statesman, and deputy literary editor of the Sunday Times of London. For a decade he served as a television critic, most notably for the London Observer; his commentary was noted for being witty, irreverent, and provocative.
Influenced by the French writer Gustave Flaubert, particularly his concern for form, style, and objectivity, Barnes produced serious novels that continued to exhibit his fascination with language and literary experiments, in contrast with the more traditional narrative approach and narrow subject matter of many twentieth century English novelists. Under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, Barnes also published a number of detective novels, less experimental in style, although the major protagonist of these books is gay.
(The entire section is 408 words.)